CLARKSDALE – Barely touching the one-year milestone of the mayor holding office, the City of Clarksdale is facing a lawsuit by three former city employees who allege they were terminated because of racial discrimination.

Three former employees – Obert Douglas, Joseph Cobb Gibbs, and Curtis Boschert – allege that they were fired on July 10, 2017 because they were white.

Douglas served as the fire chief for six years. Gibbs served as the municipal judge for over 20 years. Boschert served as the city attorney for about 14 years.

According to the complaint, on the day that city officials made the decision to fire Douglas, Gibbs, and Boschert, Mayor Chuck Espy broke the tie that resulted in the firing of the three in a vote that split along racial lines. Commissioners Ed Seals and Willie Turner, Jr., voted “aye” whereas Ken Murphy and Timothy “Bo” Plunk voted “nay.”

The positions of attorney, municipal judge, and fire chief have been filled by African-Americans, in which the plaintiffs claim they are “more qualified” than and that the “…blacks were treated more favorably,” the complaint states.

The plaintiffs also alleged that the city did not grant them pre- or post-termination hearings, and there was no good cause shown to justify them losing their jobs.

The plaintiffs are asking for reinstatement to their positions and back pay, fringe benefits, salary increases, awards, bonuses, and income lost since their termination.

The mayor’s office and city officials declined to comment because of the ongoing litigation.

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Aallyah Wright is a native of Clarksdale, and was a Mississippi Delta reporter covering education and local government. She was also a weekly news co-host on WROX Radio (97.5 FM) and collaborator with StoryWorks/Reveal Labs from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Aallyah has a bachelor’s in journalism with minors in communications and theater from Delta State University. She is a 2018 Educating Children in Mississippi Fellow at the Hechinger Report, and co-founder of the Mississippi Delta Public Newsroom.